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Feelgood Films: The Movies That Lift Our Spirits

10 May 21 words: LeftLion Screen Team

Movies have long been a way to lift the spirits, providing heartwarming moments and tonnes of laughs, fist-pumping action and that ugly happy-cry you do when star-crossed lovers finally end up together. To tie in with our recent self-care issue of the mag, the LeftLion screen team dive into their favourite feelgood films of all time...

Your Name - Jamie Morris (Screen Co-Editor)

Your Name was the most critically and commercially successful Japanese film of the 2010s for a reason: nearly every second of it is pure joy. Directed by modern-day anime auteur Makoto Shinkai, it sees city boy Taki and country girl Mitsuha mysteriously begin to switch bodies and inevitably fall in love.

It’s a beautiful and endlessly delightful look into Japanese life in the 21st century, stunningly animated and scored by a jubilant J-pop soundtrack. Through the film’s sumptuous photorealistic settings and carefully-crafted character moments, Shinkai invites us to share his worldview and notice the wonders that exist all around us in our own lives.

The Nice Guys - George White (Screen Co-Editor)

Abduction, deceit, cold-blooded murder - it’s safe to say these aren’t usually the product of a classic feelgood film. Yet Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, filled with all three, is an absolute blast from start to finish, and one of the most criminally underlooked films in recent years. Led by the phenomenally entertaining Ryan Gosling and featuring a surprisingly adequate performance from Russell Crowe, this crime comedy is sharp, inventive, and ridiculously funny. 

With an intelligent plot and vibrant visuals to boot, The Nice Guys is a near enough faultless film I have come back to countless times - and enjoyed even more with each watch.

Bridget Jones's Diary - Hollie Anderson

For me, the best feelgood film has to be Bridget Jones’s Diary, but not because it’s a chick flick. The opening scenes where Bridget glugs red wine and mimes along to Jamie O’Neal’s All by Myself is a moment that, without fail, my mum will snort at and say, “Oh that’s so you.” A charming comparison. 

However, I do take a lot of joy in Bridget’s oh too familiar, mistake-ridden ways - especially as we share careers in PR and I’ve experienced the behind-the-scenes of TV, too. But above all, the film is a real comfort; nothing truly bad happens, it’s daft yet lovely, romantic but with a dash of sarcasm thrown in, and everything works out in the end. You know where you stand with Miss Jones, and I watch it at least three times a year.

I Feel Pretty - Emma Walsh

Let's be honest, we all need a little pick-me-up now and then, and I Feel Pretty is my absolute favourite film for the job. Amy Schumer stars as Renee, a woman who isn't exactly brimming with self-confidence... that is, until she bangs her head. When she wakes up, Renee has a love for herself we all wish we had, as she struts about the screen with a confidence I'll fully admit to wanting for myself. 

Does she waltz into work and land her dream job? Of course she does. Does she meet a guy and have the confidence to be herself around him with no shame? Duh! Does she jump at the idea of entering her local swimsuit contest with zero hesitation? Is that even a question?

All round, as cringeworthy as it may sound, the film is a true testament to how much we can achieve if we just believe in ourselves. So next time you're having one of those days when you think the world's against you (we've all had them), I challenge you to watch this film and not be waltzing down the street to Meghan Trainor's Me Too within the next twenty-four hours!

Guardians of the Galaxy - Nathan Warby

If bopping along while Peter Quill dances to Come and Get Your Love doesn’t lift you up - then I don’t know what to tell you. Not only does Guardians have a killer soundtrack to help your mood, its story of misfits banding together and becoming a family always brings a smile to my face, even on my 50th rewatch. 

At this point, seeing Rocket and Drax is like bumping into some old friends and picking exactly where we left off. The quirky humour never seems to get old, and it’s just such an easy, relaxing watch time and time again. Plus, come on, there’s a talking can’t be sad when you’re watching a talking tree. It’s science!

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - Sebastian Mann

If you aren’t from the US, then there’s probably little appeal to a film about Mr Rogers, the soft-spoken children’s television host. It may be easy to dismiss it as just another harmless movie starring Tom Hanks (who is perfectly cast, unsurprisingly), but A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is deceptively moving. Centred around an Esquire journalist, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), who is sent to profile Mr Rogers, it quickly moves past its twee surface and onto a profoundly melancholy exploration of the pains of fatherhood and what keeps us going. 

Marielle Heller’s understated direction transcends simple nostalgia and creates a warm, comforting and super rewatchable experience. It’s a film about the simple act of choosing to be nice. There’s no way to describe it without it sounding toe-curlingly saccharine, but it’s deeply reassuring to know everyone has off days and that they don’t last forever.

Paddington 2 Miriam Blakemore-Hoy

Rarely does a sequel come along that’s better than its predecessor. Even rarer when that film overtakes Citizen Kane on Rotten Tomatoes…

While the London that Paddington inhabits is idealistic, it does feel as though this could be Britain at its very best, with Union Jacks, marmalade, manners and a vibrant multicultural society. Hugh Grant leads a wonderful cast as he takes on the role of his life as a first rate villain. But the real beauty in this film is the goodness and kindness that radiate out from a small immigrant bear, adopted into a family and a community that end up being made better by his trust and openness. Paddington’s decency spreads to everyone he meets, making the world a better place, one person at a time. When the world seems like a dark place, this is what I want to be reminded of.

Stranger Than Fiction - Sue Barsby 

Will Ferrell might be best known as a comic actor, but he is at his absolute best when playing it straight, as demonstrated in Stranger Than Fiction. Ferrell plays Harold Crick, a tax auditor with a dull uneventful existence, until one day he finds his life is being narrated by a strange voice, "accurately and with a better vocabulary.” When the narrator tells him about his imminent death, he enlists the help of literature professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman) to find out what is happening to him. Meanwhile, reclusive author Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) has writer's block and is debating how to kill her main character Crick. Can Harold find her before it is too late?  This clever intersection of life and fiction has much to say about a life-well-lived, love, friendship, the small things – guitars, baked goods - that give us joy, and the importance of connecting with people.  

Shrek - Adam Ridgley 

While many have come to see Shrek as nothing more than the internet’s favourite burping, farting Smash Mouth enthusiast, it is always important to remember that ogres have layersBehind the hysterically written dialogue, non-stop digs at musical fairytales and DreamWorks basically giving the middle finger to Disney, there is a deeply touching story about self-worth, love, and acceptance. 

Shrek is rejected by society, forcing him to lean into their prejudicial perception of ogres. He believes he is unworthy of affection and is sceptical to those who offer him it. The constant doubt Shrek suffers as he grows to accept that he is worthy of love will be surprisingly relatable to many. 

Fiona’s transformation, partnered with the upbeat Smashmouth x Donkey I'm a Believer remix, reminds us that societal perceptions can be flawed, and that everyone is worthy of love - including ourselves.

The Wedding Singer - Katie Green

The Wedding Singer tells the story of Robbie Hart (Adam Sandler) as he aspires to become a famous singer. Drew Barrymore's Julia is new in town, and is working as a waitress alongside her cousin at the place Robbie is performing - and the pair eventually start to fall for each other.

The soundtrack and the love story is what makes this film a comfort for me, and gets me through some of the times when I feel most down. I have lost count the amount of times I have watched it, and it is no surprise that I now know it word for word. It’s almost as if it has ‘spun me round’ (a joke only understood for those obsessed with the Sandler classic). 

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